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Specialty Records Definition

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Little Richard's The Georgia Peach

Little Richard's The Georgia Peach

Photo courtesy Concord Music Group
Definition:

Specialty Records: Specialty Records founder Art Rupe was originally a partner in a label called Juke Box Records, which enjoyed hits with raucous R&B and blues by artists like Roy Milton, Marion Abernathy, and Roosevelt Sykes. Selling his interest in Juke Box's parent company, Rupe changed the label's name and launched Specialty Records in late 1946 or early 1947.

Although Specialty's initial success was with jump blues and R&B artists like Roy Milton, Percy Mayfield, Louis Jordan, and Jimmy Liggins, Rupe's love of gospel music would lead him to release records by groups like the Pilgrim Travelers and the Soul Stirrers (with Sam Cooke) with some encouraging results.

The label struggled somewhat during the early 1950s, releasing songs by artists like Guitar Slim, John Lee Hooker, and Lloyd Price, but Specialty scored big in 1955 with the release of Little Richard's "Tutti Fruiti" on the fairly new 45rpm record format. Specialty and Little Richard would enjoy fourteen Top Ten R&B and two Top Ten pop hits in eighteen months before the artist found religion and left the label.

Rupe released little or no new music during the 1960s, concentrating on his other business interests, but he kept Specialty going through reissues and licensing until he sold the label to Fantasy Records in 1991. Fantasy itself would be acquired by Concord Music, which has reissued albums by a number of Specialty's original artists.

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